Graduation ceremonies honour leading UK figures

Aston Graduates
Aston graduates celebrate at Birmingham Town Hall

7 July 2011

Aston University held its graduation ceremonies in the splendour of Birmingham’s Town Hall from Monday, July 11, to Friday, July 15, 2011.

There were nine degree ceremonies in total at the grade-1 listed landmark, which first opened as a music hall in 1834. It saw more than 1,800 students process throughout the week, with over 2,000 Aston University students graduating in total this year.

During the ceremony, the University also presented eight honorary degrees to leading figures in the fields of business, science, engineering and politics. These were Ian Gray; Lord Stafford; Nelson Ogunshakin OBE; Sir Roland Jackson;  Paul Bassi CBE; Mohammad Nazir OBE; Ian Robertson and Robert Walter MP.

Iain Gray – Monday 11th July at 2:30pm

Iain Gray joined the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) as Chief Executive in 2007, following its establishment as an executive non-departmental public body. The TSB assumes a leading role in driving the UK’s technology and innovation strategy.

Prior to joining the Technology Strategy Board, Iain was Managing Director and General Manager of Airbus UK, whose Bristol operation he joined when it was still part of British Aerospace.

Iain is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineers, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and in 2007 was awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal.

He is Chairman of the Business and Industry Panel of The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB), a Governor of the University of the West of England, a Board Member of the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies (SEMTA), and a Board Member of Energy Technologies Institute.

Lord Stafford – Tuesday 12th July at 11am

Lord Stafford established the Lord Stafford Awards in 1997, to encourage the development of collaborative relationship between Staffordshire businesses and universities. The success of the Awards has now expanded to include the West Midlands, the East Midlands and the East of England.

 Lord Stafford is currently President or Patron of a number of charities and organisations mainly in Staffordshire and the West Midlands. He was Pro Chancellor of Keele University 1993 – 2003, on the Board and then Chairman of Governors Harper Adams University College 1990 – 2004, Chairman of Governors Swynnerton School 1986 – 2008 and High Sheriff of Staffordshire 2005/2006.

He is currently Chairman of Countryside Learning which aims to educate inner city school children about the countryside through estate and farm visits, linking what they have learnt back into the national curriculum. Lord Stafford is also Vice Chairman of Hanley Economic Building Society.

Nelson Ogunshakin OBE – Tuesday 12th July at 2:30pm

Nelson Ogunshakin is the chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and over the past five years has been responsible for the repositioning and strategic turnaround of ACE.

ACE represents the business interests of the consultancy and engineering industry in the UK. It is the leading business association in this field – approximately 600 firms, large and small, operating across many different consultancy and engineering disciplines, employing around 90,000 people and with annual turnover in excess of £8bn.

Nelson is a civil engineer and specialist infrastructure procurement expert with over 27 years’ industry experience in the development and financing of infrastructure and property construction investment portfolios. Before joining ACE, Nelson was managing director of consultancy AEO Group and has held the position of chairman of AEO Group since 2004. He has previously worked in a number of executive director level positions with multidisciplinary consultancies WSP Group and High Point Rendel Group. He started his career as an engineer working on various building and civil engineering projects for Carillion Group PLC.

Sir Roland Jackson – Wednesday 13th July at 11am

Roland Jackson took up his current post as Chief Executive of the British Science Association in September 2002.

Educated at Oxford University, Roland obtained a degree in biochemistry in 1976, a doctorate in molecular immunology in 1979 and a postgraduate certificate in education in 1980. He taught science in secondary schools in Newmarket and Bristol for nine years, ultimately as Head of Science at Backwell School, Bristol. During this period, and subsequently, he contributed to several national curriculum development programme in science education, including SATIS (Science and Technology in Society), Nuffield Coordinated Science and Salters’ Advanced Chemistry.

From 1989 to 1993 he was Education Adviser for the international chemical company ICI, managing the corporate programmes to support science education. In 1993 he joined the Science Museum, London, as Head of Education. In this role he was responsible for public and schools programmes, for the interactive or ‘hands on’ galleries, and for initiatives in the use of the internet and website. He was appointed Head of Museum from 2001 – 2002.

He was appointed by the Science Minister in the previous UK Government as chair of the ‘Science for All’ Expert Group, which produced a collaborative action plan for developing public engagement in the UK. He now chairs the Follow On Group which continues to develop and implement the plan. Other appointments include: Science in Society Panel for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (chair); Education and Public Outreach Advisory Panel for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Steering Group of the Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Engagement.

Paul Bassi CBE – Thursday 14th July at 11am

Born in Birmingham, Paul Bassi is Chairman of Bond Wolfe, (the business he founded approximately 30 years ago), Chairman for CP Bigwood and Chief Executive of Real Estate Investors Plc.

 Previously, Paul was the Regional Chairman for Coutts Bank (West Midlands) and UK Strategy Advisor (2001 – 2007). He was Chairman of the Icelandic owned bank, Kaupthing, Singer & Friedlander (Midlands office,) from 2007 to 2009.

In 2010, Paul accepted the Presidency at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, becoming the first Asian President of the largest Chamber of Commerce in the country. He is supportive of many multi-cultural organisations throughout the West Midlands and is a founder member of the Black Country Asian Business Association. Paul formed the Bond Wolfe Charitable Trust and believes that his business has a responsibility to the community as well as its staff and shareholders. He was appointed as High Sheriff for the West Midlands (2009), Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands (2008) and West Midlands Ambassador by Advantage West Midlands (2006).

Paul was awarded a CBE in 2010 in recognition of his services to business and to the community in the West Midlands.

Mohammad Nazir OBE – Thursday 14th July at 2:30pm

Mohammad Nazir has over 20 years of experience in business management and development gained from working in ICT, engineering, manufacturing and in the public sector.

Mohammad trained both in electrical and electronic engineering and IT and started his career in developing computer hardware and software solutions for small businesses in the early eighties. He worked briefly in the Middle East, where he worked with leading academic institutions to develop a revolutionary model of learning, introducing accelerated learning in work-based environments to produce much needed young graduates in mechanical engineering, construction, business and medicine. In the 90’s he established his own international business research and consulting firm.

Mohammad has worked nationally and internationally to support equity investment for small businesses and to create a new legal and accounting sector in Islamic Finance, making Birmingham a major focal point for Islamic Finance. This has included support of Aston’s El Shaarani Centre for Islamic Finance and Business. He developed Europe’s First Halal certification standard, chaired the European Halal Development Agency and has served on the West Midlands Council of Economic Advisors Board.

In his voluntary capacity Mohammad has chaired the West Midlands Minority Business Forum. He is devoted to raising educational achievements of young people and was a founder member of the Youth Academy Board creating the University of the First Age and the Youth Parliament. He was awarded an OBE for “Services to Business” in 2010.

Ian Robertson – Friday 15th July at 11am

Ian Robertson currently serves as the Board Member of BMW AG for Sales and Marketing and was Chairman and Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd from 2005 to 2008.

He started his career in the automotive industry as a Graduate Trainee with the Rover Group in Great Britain thirty-two years ago and has been working in a variety of positions since.

From 1988 to 1994 he held various leadership roles at the Rover Group, including Purchasing Director, before being promoted to Managing Director at Land Rover Vehicles. He served as Managing Director at BMW South Africa from 1999 to 2005 before becoming the Chairman and Chief Executive for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd in 2005.

Since March of 2008, Ian has led the BMW Group’s Global Sales and Marketing business.

Robert Walter MP – Friday 15th July at 2:30pm

Robert Walter was educated at Warminster School and Aston University. He was elected as Conservative Member of Parliament for North Dorset in May 1997 and re-elected in 2001, 2005 and 2011. Before entering Parliament he was an international banker and farmer. He is a former member of the London Stock Exchange and was a Director of Aubrey G Lanston & Co Inc. Robert presently serves as President of the European Security and Defence Assembly.

In November 2010 he was appointed by the Prime Minister, to head the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and in January 2011 was elected President of the European Democrats. In 2010, he was elected Chairman of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). He is also a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, and now serves as chairman of its European Affairs Committee. At Westminster Robert has served as a member of the Health Select Committee (1997 – 1999), International Development Committee (2001 – 2003) and the Treasury Committee (2003 – 2005). He was a member of the Conservative 1922 Committee (2002 – 2005). From June 1999 to September 2001, he was Conservative Frontbench Spokesman for Constitutional Affairs and for Wales.

For further press information, images or to arrange press photographs please contact Alex Earnshaw on 0121 204 4549 or